February 8
"So You're the Guy....."

We were walking back from the Kid's Day Fly on Friday in Madison, Wisconsin. Occasionally one of the shops on State Street would look interesting and we'd wander in to look around. I was searching for the perfect hat, and Pete Dolphin was talking to the woman behind the counter.

"We're here for Kites on Ice", he said. "So we'll be out on the lake all weekend. All of us but that guy over there. He's leaving Saturday night for Florida..."

The woman turned and casually looked me over. "Oh." she said. "So you are the one going to the Super Bowl and leaving your wife here to pack up all the wet kites alone."

True story. All my stories are true.

Slush on Ice

We knew Kites on Ice was going to be tough this year. Unusually warm weather was turning the snow to slush and melting the top layer of ice. The lake surface was more than safe. But it was also wet, slippery, and strewn with soggy fabric that wouldn't fly in the light winds gusting over the shoreline buildings.

It was a shame too because Madison had gathered a rich collection of kite talent -- primarily from around the Midwest. Susan and I were pleased to be included again. This would be our 7th appearance at "KOI" and we quickly learned that cold weather is better than warm for ice flying.

As usual, large crowds appeared for the opening of the festival. The public surged onto the lake and quickly filled the 'fun flying' fields. It never fails that beginner kites work when the fancy ones won't.

Wet Trilobite Wringing out a Pyro Wet Crowd

By mid-afternoon, most of the field was covered in two inches of ice water. Banners and bouncers seemed to work best. Big kites were wet before they could launch. Metal anchors warmed and melted loose. Sport kite exhibitions lagged. And the kite skiers kicked up ugly swaths of cold sticky spray.

Slush on Ice

Even the flying flowers thought there was too much water....

Fortunately, Kites on Ice also features a broad assortment of workshops, exhibitions and indoor flying programs.

The flying field is adjacent to the University Union. Classrooms and auditoriums provided a dry venue for the indoor festival even as the outdoor show bogged down.

The annual night fly featured few kites but lots of fireworks.

Saturday night, I left for the airport while Susie went to the KOI party. I landed in Savannah, Georgia, at midnight with a plan to drive to Jacksonville, Florida, at five in the morning. The GKPI "Flight and Safety Team" included Jim and Kathren Martin, and Mike and Judy Agner. We would be performing at the VIP TailGate Party which was being broadcast by the Fox Network. The Team was committed to be in place at the stadium before nine. It was going to be a busy day.

SuperBowl

The offer to fly at the Super Bowl had come up suddenly. They wanted big kites flown in an awkward venue and we said we could do it. We had 20 minutes to review site photos, assess the limitations of the field and organize a show. We did that. And we had to demonstrate $5 million of liability insurance. We did that too. The opportunity to fly in front of this particular crowd, and to potentially reach a television market where a 30 second ad sells for $2 million was impossible to resist. Jason Benedict coordinated all negotiations for us and even flew down from New York to help on site.

Was it an easy show? Of course not!

Our assigned space was a boat dock ten feet wide and 100 feet long. The wind came over the stadium, through the entertainment tents, and then past the dock and out over the flowing river. Space was tight and winds were turbulent. Every kite we flew went into the river. Good thing we were experts....

Flying Zone Flying Zone Flying Zone Flying Zone

We have been asked to fly 'aquatic inflatables' along with line laundry and lifters. During the course of the day, we lofted Pilots, Suttons, streamers, spikey balls and a collection of fish and octopus. A flying show on the water might have made better sense but the area was closed to all traffic for security reasons.

Secure Flying

Our dock was used by the police. We'd been screened by security and completed two back-ground checks before we even arrived. The car was completely x-rayed as it entered the park. Security was in evidence everywhere.

To launch the inflatables we developed a unique technique. Step One: launch a Pilot; attach the main kite, and then toss it in the river. This works better with borrowed kites.

Step Two: Use the Pilot to keep the vents on the main kite out of the water. Pump the line and hope the wind stays steady long enough to lift the now-soaked kite out of the water.

Step Three: If the lifter can hold the wet kite in the air for about 90 seconds, enough water will run off that it can inflate and start to fly itself. When the wind drops, go back to Step One.

Octo Launch - step 1 Octo Launch - step 2 Octo Launch - step 3

If it worked for mid-sized kites, the strategy should work for the giants as well. All we needed was more line and more luck. Besides -- we were there to put on a show and make an impression. So the big kites went into the river too.

Big Octo Launch Big Octo Launch

Predictably, the cameras were more interested in celebrities, aging jocks, and young cheerleaders. In a few televised shots, you could see our Pilots up over the stadium -- but not the larger showpieces below. Mostly, we flew for the crowd. And this particular crowd was not a bad audience to fly for.

VIP Party VIP Party VIP Party

The VIP party was for ... well ... VIP's. You couldn't buy tickets.

The gathering was exclusively for team owners, sponsors, and their select guests. That included media and an interesting assortment of movers-and-shakers. The food, drinks, and entertainment was all free. Open bars were everywhere. The gates opened at one and at five, everyone left for the game. As we were packing up, we could hear cheering from the stadium right across the street.

No -- we didn't get to attend the game. And that's fine. My sport is kiting.

Giant Fish

Monday morning I flew out of Savannah to link with Susie in Chicago. She was leaving Madison with wet bags. I was bringing wet bags from Florida. It was a wet weekend.

We were definitely tired. But we were also very satisfied with what we'd been able to do.

I keep saying that life is all about the stories you collect. The test of a charmed life is never needing to make those stories up. And as far as stories go, this was a pretty good one...

Herald Square

The Herald hasn't caught on yet and we need to get a few out where they can be seen. Looking for a deal?? This is your opportunity!!

Designed by Frank Schwiemann of Germany, the Herald evokes images of flags fluttering atop castle towers or the pennants carried by medieval knights. The bold lines extend into 14 foot streamer tails built into the kite so you will never lose them.

The Herald has two horizontals and one vertical spar. It is set-up like an Eddy with a second spreader at the top rather than the center. The kite has built-in dihedral. There are photos in the G-Kites pages.

Testing shows a limited wind range for this showpiece. Plan on flying in 8-12 mph for best performance. The normal price is $49. But we'll drop that to $30 during the month of February. Available in red, yellow, blue, purple, or aqua with black tails.

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